Memory of University of Texas Tower shooting remains 50 years later
Former Austin police officer, Ramiro Martinez, recalls deadly day
AUSTIN – It is known as the first mass shooting in modern U.S. history. On August 1, 1966, sniper Charles Whitman shot and killed 14 people.
That day caught many off-guard, including former Austin police officer Ramiro Martinez.
He was 29 years old and off duty that morning.
Fifty years later Martinez, now a retired Texas Ranger, remembers every detail from that day.
"I was off duty because I didn't have to go to work until three that afternoon," Martinez said.
After seeing a breaking news report about a shooting situation at the UT campus he called in to see where he was needed.
He was told to go help out with traffic but when he arrived all roads were taken care of by other officers.
"At that time I made my decision that I needed to get into the tower," Martinez said.
He had to run past many of the wounded, dodging bullets, to get inside.
"You just put that fear behind you and you do your job," Martinez said. "You become kind of like a robot and you don't feel anything."
Once there he met up with civilian Allen Crum. Crum work was working at the co-op bookstore when he saw a man riding his bike get shot.
Martinez at first did not know Crum was a civilian.
"He said I guess you better deputize me and that's when I found out he was a civilian," Martinez said. "I looked at him and we had a formal ceremony there and I said consider yourself deputized."
On the 27th floor, Martinez found the bodies of several people, including those of the Gabour family.
Officer Jerry Day, W.A. “Dub” Cowan, an intelligence officer with the Texas Department of Public Safety were at the top of the tower as well when Martinez arrived. Fellow Austin Police Officer Houston McCoy would soon arrive as well.
Martinez and Crum would then head outside to locate Whitman.
Crum stayed at the southeast corner of the tower and Martinez went around to the northeast corner. McCoy was also there with Martinez. Crum did not know how to handle the rifle given to him and accidently fired a shot that hit the wall on the southwest corner. That shot would give Martinez and McCoy the opportunity to shoot at Whitman.
"I kept advancing, shooting him." Martinez said. "I could see that I was scoring because you could see the reaction of the body when the bullet impacts into it."
McCoy also fired shots from his shotgun that also hit Whitman. Once Whitmas was down Martinez took McCoy's shotgun and fired one more shot into the sniper.
The heroics of these men would put an end to the deadly day.
"I was just glad that I had a part in it." Martinez said. "That I helped bring this to an end, I felt good that I had done my job."
All videos are courtesy Texas Archive of the Moving Image, TexasArchive.org. For more information about Martinez click here.
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